Orchestra History

Although its antecedents can be traced back to 1903, the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra as it is organized today was formed in 1957 under the auspices of the University of Dubuque (UD). Dr. Parvis Mahmoud, a UD associate professor of music, served as the conductor. Their first concert was on December 11, 1957, in Peters Commons on the UD campus.

That same year UD's President Dr. Gaylord Couchman, Music Chair Dr. Doy Baker, and supporters of the Arts, Drs. Paul Laube and Clark Stevens, began working to change the name of the UD Symphonic Orchestra to the University Civic Orchestra. The new name would recognize that members of the orchestra were drawn from both the university and Dubuque community.

By the end of the 1959-1960 season the name was changed and Dr. Stevens was elected the first President of the Board of Directors. The orchestra would provide three to four programs a year with outside soloists. They would also schedule their performances in locations larger than Peters Commons, and the cost of the performances would be covered by the selling of tickets. By the 1961-1962 season they were performing four concerts all at the Dubuque Senior High School Auditorium. 

During a meeting in 1963 the board decided to change to name to the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra (DSO). This name change reflected the fact that UD chose to give up all governing rights. The first performance by the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra was held at Terrence Donahue Hall at Clarke College on October 20, 1963.

Under Mahmoud’s directorship, the DSO grew in size and prestige. After 26 years as conductor he retired in 1985. Nicholas Palmer was named the DSO’s second Music Director and Conductor in 1986. Under Maestro Palmer’s direction, the orchestra continued to grow steadily in size, ticket sales and public support. The number of concerts performed increased from five in the 1985-1986 season to 27 in the 1991-1992 season. Maestro Palmer was named Conductor Emeritus of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra in 1999 in recognition of his service to the orchestra.

During the 1999-2000 season the DSO conducted a nationwide search to fill Maestro Palmer’s position. The Board of Directors together with the patrons of the DSO, overwhelmingly chose William Intriligator to be the third Music Director and Conductor of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. Under Maestro Intriligator’s leadership the Symphony has experienced tremendous growth and success—attracting new audiences and musicians, adding opera productions to the season, doubling the number of education concerts and forging new partnerships in the community.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra is to engage the tri-state community and enrich its quality of life through live musical performances and educational programs.

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